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Report: Brazil World Cup 2014

Portugal in with a chance thanks to Ronaldo and Varela

Portugal's Eder (R) fights for the ball with Matt Besler of the U.S.
Portugal's Eder (R) fights for the ball with Matt Besler of the U.S. Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Five things we learned on day 11.

  • A little Portuguese goes a long way. A few months ago, in preparation for the trip to Brazil, the daily review started learning Portuguese. And what an intelligent move. It’s been very useful. Never more so than the other day, when we were able to ask the Ayrton Senna-like taxi driver in Campinas to slow down. In the hotel in Cuiaba, the daily review has been nattering with the staff about the football. Just before heading away in a taxi for the airport to travel to Belo Horizonte, the restaurant waiter said the lunch was on his tab. It was gratefully accepted. We hope it wasn’t offered because he’s happy he no longer has to suffer the atrocious Portuguese. Or because it was the last meal for a condemned man.
  • The information will eventually out. The daily review has been travelling around Brazil for nearly two weeks now and a booklet has come into its possession entitled: “What you need to know about the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.” The 13 page tract is produced by the Secretariat for Social Communication Presidency of the Federative Republic of Brazil-SECOM. “This booklet provides an overview of the current and expected benefits that Brazil will receive from hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup,” it says. The other goal of the booklet is to “dispel some of the myths that have entered public discussion recently”. The daily review likes to pride itself as a purveyor of truth and justice and we hope we haven’t been peddling cheap and easy prejudices. “Not a single Real has been diverted from hospitals or schools as these are absolute priorities,” says the booklet. We’ve not met anyone who has said this, people have complained that the money pumped into the stadiums should have been spent on these sectors.
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  • Airport experience done good. In Britain back in 1986, the former England international Mick Channon was drafted in to add some gravitas to ITV’s world cup coverage. It was masterstroke for the commercial station. Channon’s west country accent added a lyrical lilt to proceedings and so did his obduracy. He refused to say the name of the young England striker Gary Lineker correctly. Rather than “Linn-aker” he persisted with “Line-acre”. His approach to the English language was just as offbeat. When the young attacker had a good game, he described the performance: “The boy Lineker done good.” It’s become accepted football argot. Much in the same vein as “sick as a parrot” or “gutted” for poor results or “over the moon” for a positive experience. I’d be a bit dubious about using “over the moon” for a plane journey. But done good appears perfectly acceptable. The formula seems to be constant. Insouciant taxi driver in Cuiaba shuns rules of the road - Cuiaba airport fluid – Ayrton Senna reincarnation at the other end in Belo Horizonte. The wry side of me says it would be just my luck to travel at 40,000 feet unscathed for a couple of hours and then perish just inches from the ground during a 20 minute car ride. Again I had to ask the driver to slow down. Maybe some of those world cup billions should have been spent on driving lessons for taxi drivers.
  • Attack is the best defence. The United States paid the price for retreat. 2-1 up and into stoppage time, they all fell back and defended. There was no-one up front to worry the Portuguese defenders. The waves came and 30 seconds before the final whistle. The goal came. A sumptuous cross from Cristiano Ronaldo and an unstoppable header from Silvestre Varela. 2-2. The US stay second in Group F behind Germany and Portugal, who are last, are relaunched and in with a mathematical chance of progress.
  • We’re not going to do permutations. At this stage, some groups are cut and dried. For example, Group B, where Spain and Australia are over and out. The Netherlands and Chile are the ones contesting top spot. Group F isn’t so crystal clear. Germany, the US, Ghana and Portugal can all still go through to the last 16 if results fall in a certain way. I’m not going to become involved with all that jazz. I have to bolster myself for the next ride in a taxi.
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